The two most anxiously awaited criminal cases left on the Supreme Court's docket this term are known as Rita and Claiborne, nicknames for the defendants in the cases, which test important issues in the aftermath of the Court's sentencing guidelines cases of recent terms: whether sentences higher than the guidelines (Rita) or lower than the guidelines (Claiborne) are presumed reasonable.
Well, it looks like Claiborne will never learn the answer -- nor will anyone else, at least in the context of his case. Scotusblog and Doug Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog are reporting that defendant Mario Claiborne died in a robbery incident in St. Louis on Wednesday. As we learned recently in a case involving Kenneth Lay, the death of a party in a case like this renders the case moot. (Note, though, that Johnnie Cochran's death did not completely moot his 2005 civil case before the Supreme Court.)
Using the quaint language of the law, Claiborne's federal defender today filed with the Supreme Court a "suggestion of death" confirming that Claiborne has died, though it won't be definitive until a death certificate is submitted. Sentencing guru Berman suggests that the loss of the Claiborne case might not have much impact, since the Rita case could lay down the law on both over- and under-guideline sentences.